Whose Fantasy of the Past?

Joy Reid, a leftist writing at the Daily Beast, has a column titled “The Right Can’t Fight the Future.” It is an odd mingling of triumphalism and paranoia, a combination we see often on the left. It is the sort of thing we have seen a thousand times–the inevitable victory of leftism, never mind the USSR, East Germany, North Korea, Venezuela, and so on.

But some found Reid’s column impressive, including Larry Tribe, who was a smart guy when I knew him decades ago. I am not sure what has happened in the interim. Tribe tweeted (via Ann Althouse):

High praise! What exactly is Reid’s “brilliant take on the politics of the space-time continuum?” Reid wrote:

Thanks to the space-time continuum, people from different centuries cannot live simultaneously.

Heavy, man! That, apparently, qualifies as “brilliant” on the left.

I want to comment on one long paragraph in Reid’s piece that is the core of her argument. If you can call it an argument.

In every way, Donald Trump is a president built for the past; a benighted, late 19th Century figure who spun his supporters a tale…

So what we are about to read is a “tale” told by Donald Trump. Right? That’s what she says.

…that he could restore a bygone era when coal fires burned, factories hummed, steel mills belched out soot and opportunity and a (white) man with a sturdy back, a high school diploma and a song in his heart could buy a little house, marry a little wife and have 3 cherry-cheeked kids he didn’t ever have to cook or clean for, plus if he can afford it, a hot mistress on the side.

But once you get past the coal, the factories and the steel mills–which have little or nothing to do with Reid’s theme–Trump didn’t say any of that. Reid just made it up. It is her “tale,” not Trump’s.

Trump is the slovenly but brash, gold-plated emblem of a time when in the imagination of his followers…

Got that? Reid is now going to tell us what Trump’s “followers”–his voters, presumably, people like me–“imagine.” How does she know what we imagine? She doesn’t say.

…black women hummed a tune while they cleaned your house or did the washing, black men tipped their hat on the street but didn’t dare look you in the eye, and neither would dream of moving in next door. A time when women asked their husbands for an allowance, not their boss for a promotion, men were “allowed to be men” complete with ribald jokes and a slap on the fanny for the pretty secretary at work, and there were no gays, no trans people, no birth control…

No birth control? Where did that come from?

…they somehow just didn’t exist! The rural folks were the salt of the earth and we only let in “a certain kind of immigrant” whose only goal was to shake off his ethnicity and “assimilate.” Everyone went to (separate) church on Sundays and everyone “got along.” It’s a plasticine world that for many must feel like it truly existed, though of course it never did.

Reid acknowledges that she is describing a world that never existed. On the contrary, she relates an insane fantasy. The question is, whose fantasy is it? With no evidence, she attributes it to Trump’s supporters. Speaking for myself, however, I have never imagined any such past or any such future. I believe that would be true for approximately 100% of Trump’s voters. The fantasy is entirely Reid’s.

I think Joy Reid has inadvertently made an important point. The crazed hatred of Donald Trump that we see on the left is based on a fantasy–a fantasy that liberals attribute to Trump and his supporters, but that in fact exists only on the left. In the minds of liberals.


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